I take a peculiar delight in ridiculous ‘get to know you’ questions. My long time favourite has been “if you were a flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be and why?”
My go-to answer in my younger days was bubble gum ice cream. This flavour emphasized my desire to bring a bright energy to the world, to delight in the unexpected, and to leave a lasting impression! I always giggled about that last one….
Now, as Jessica transitions into parental leave and Chris heads into other work, I am beginning to serve as an interim pastor with Pastors in Exile and I have the opportunity to consider what kind of PiE I might be.
What will it mean to be a pastor in the community, beyond well-established structures? Who will I be as a spiritual companion and leader in this fascinating and uncertain space?
I am excited and grateful to have this opportunity to ask these questions – and to explore with all of you the intersections of identity, meaning, community, the search for justice (the list could go on!) and where we might discover the Sacred in the midst of it all.
It seems like a nearly impossible task to neatly introduce myself so here are some ‘vignettes’ – separate pieces to give you a glimpse into my experience…..and I hope to have the opportunity to learn about many of you as well.
Do I even want this kind of pie?
I have to admit that on a pretty regular basis lately I contemplate walking away from this whole church thing. There are many good reasons not to identify with the church these days, and I admire those who have been raised in this community but are courageously choosing something different because for whatever reason church doesn’t align with the longing of their souls.
But for all of my angst and unrest, my heart finds its home on the Christian path, and, well, I love Jesus (that feels so Sunday School to say but it’s true) and so for now, I stay.
What keeps me inspired and engaged is the teaching of what is often called contemplative Christianity. I want to learn more about the mystics and I crave quiet spaces where I can be discovered by this beautiful Love that we call God.
“What do we want? Pie for all! When do we want it? Now!”
In addition to mystics, I have long admired social activists. I want to be an activist – I’m not sure I really am one. But I try to be attentive to issues of justice as an expression of my faith.
Right now, participating in the work of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians is my focus, along with an ongoing commitment to living in greater harmony with all of Creation. I do fundamentally believe that all the various quests for justice intersect and interrelate, but these are two areas that I tend to spend more time thinking about these days.
It’s a pie of many colours….
I have served as a pastor for much of my adult working life, but this is the first time that I am in a pastoral role since I have started to identify as queer. It is a much longer story (and one I am happy to share) but I found my way from assumed heterosexuality to discovering a fuller picture of my sexuality in the best possible way: by falling in love. Through my relationship with my partner Gini, I have found my way to a deeper sense of home in my own body and being; and now, here I am, a queer pastor.
There are actually a surprising number of pastors who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Mennonite Church these days but it is not an easy path.
Coming into a fuller experience of myself and my sexuality has been a delight and has drawn me into a deeper intimacy with my Creator. My confidence in who I am in Christ has never been stronger – I know God is proud of me.
And yet, too many voices in my church community (not Stirling Ave Mennonite Church….just to be clear) continue to reject my deepest truth and great delight as unacceptable and sinful. This is a wound that cuts deep and causes me profound grief.
So I share this part of my story because it will shape how I serve as a member of PiE. I hope that it will increase my compassion for all who experience rejection, deepen my commitment to creating hospitable spaces for all, and strengthen my resolve to live into my vocation without hesitation.
I share this because I imagine there are others who might identify with my story and who similarly struggle to belong. And I share this because I am going to need support along the way.
We are all in this together – vulnerable and powerful – and I hope we might remember this more often.
So I think that is more than enough about me for right now. Please be in touch – I’d love to hear from you. I can often be found around the KPL, Berlin Bicycle Cafe, and the Queen Street Commons…come say hi!
Tamara Shantz is an interim pastor with Pastors in Exile. She will be covering Jessica’s parental leave until the end of August, 2017.
In addition to working with PiE, Tamara is a spiritual director and Enneagram teacher. She attends Stirling Ave. Mennonite Church. You can reach her at email@example.com.